While the last Mass Effect trilogy ended not too long ago, it’s no secret that BioWare is hard at work producing a new saga in the Mass Effect universe. It has been clarified that Shepard’s story is indeed over, and that it is a disservice to fans if they called the next game Mass Effect 4. With that in mind, I’m pretty sure that the next game wouldn’t be a direct sequel. It’s also hard to see one when each ending choice had their own distinct impact on the universe. What should BioWare do? Some fans are clamoring for a prequel, but I am personally wary of that route.
Why am I skeptical? Read on to know my reasons and a couple of suggestions for BioWare if they do decide to a prequel.
NOTE: Spoilers in this article
Shepard’s story is over. We all know that. The next Mass Effect would probably be an entry point to an all-new trilogy with a new hero/heroine. Some people are expecting to see a game set during the Turian wars, Krogan genophage, Prothean era and other events in the past. It’s true that we’ve only gotten a glimpse of these stories, but I feel like these settings belong in a ‘one game spin-off’ category since it’s not entirely uncharted territory. I’m not saying prequels are bad in general, I just don’t think it would make it as epic as our last adventure.
For one thing, we already know what’s going to happen. The best things about games like Mass Effect are the choices and the surprising consequences that come with it. The scope of your decisions are relatively small as well since whatever you decide can’t make that big of a difference, or it would affect the narrative of the last three games we played. Unless, they are going to go do a reboot of the entire events in the trilogy with another hero/heroine. I’m sure a lot of people would be pissed by that especially since it invalidates their investment into the last trilogy. I wouldn’t mind a J.J Abrams style kind of reboot, but it’s not for everybody so I don’t see it happening.
In our last adventure, we faced an enemy that threatened the existence of the entire universe. Everyone was going to be wiped out unless Shepard and his crew saved the day. If I’m not mistaken, the Reapers were the only massive and epic threat we’ve seen so far. Fighting Rachni, Humans, or Turians would look relatively small in scale compared to these behemoth machines. Enemies don’t have to be massive to be compelling though, but it’ll help if it’s a fresh concept. That’s another reason that attributes a mere spin-off vibe to it. BioWare could revisit other cycles during the beginnings of the first Crucible, but that’s still the Reapers. It may be the same scale of danger, but it’s the same banana. However, I’m not sure about having another enemy similar to the Reapers where they are trying to simply kill everyone that exists with lasers that sound like the Inception trailer. BioWare could simply have a foe like a human or another alien, but they pose a behemoth of a threat to everyone in one way or the other.
What can they do?
Since a direct sequel is out of the question, I have this theory wherein they could make a game set thousands, millions, or even billions after the last game. Yes, it has to be that long for it to be believable at all. It’s not a direct sequel since both games will be very, very distant from one another. Some people would argue that the effects of the ending choices will be felt for a million of years. That’s true, but if BioWare can pull something off wherein the civilization we know from the Mass Effect games have become nothing but a remnant of an old era… then why not? I think it’s easy to do it for the Destroy ending since you just destroyed synthetic life. Robots can be rebuilt, so it’s really not a problem if you want AI back in the game. For Synthesis, maybe some natural occurrence stopped the synthetic-organic hybrid gene. So if you chose Synthesis or not, it could still work in the narrative. In Control, Shepard and his posse of Reapers could have retreated to an unknown part of the galaxy after he’s done being a guardian. Some event could trigger him to stop being a guardian and after a million years, he is nothing but a legend to people. Refusal is a perfect example of a “remnant from a past era” example especially with that scene where we see a hologram of Liara. Of course, these are just my theories but I believe that they can make a distant sequel while addressing the choices of the players. It may not be explicit, but it can be subtle through easter eggs and codex entries. What you chose in the end won’t even have an impact aside from conversations and backstory elements. I don’t think we should expect more than that regardless since the narrative we experienced with Shepard is over. That’s okay, because this allows BioWare to start from ‘scratch’ while still acknowledging the player’s action in the past game. It might sound like a cop out to others, but at least it’s better than establishing a canon narrative.
You know what else they could do? BioWare could totally surprise us and go out of the box on this one. I actually loved how J.J Abrams tied in the old Star Trek with the new one. It didn’t turn out to be an old fashioned remake/reboot. BioShock: Infinite is also a good example of how Irrational Games connected Rapture and Colombia together. These two weren’t prequels, sequels, or reboots, because they turned out to be something more. Before you guys get all riled up, I’m not saying BioWare should copy what Irrational and Abrams did. I’m using them as examples to convey how BioWare isn’t limited to the methods I previously mentioned. We probably won’t hear about the next Mass Effect in one to two years, but I’m definitely excited for whatever they have to offer regardless if it is a prequel or not.